Welcome to the June issue of WWF’s Conservation Pulse. As you will see, we are taking positive action alongside our partners for people and nature. Joining with millions of others during Earth Hour to call for a sustainable future. Successfully encouraging governments to recognize nature’s powerful role in addressing key challenges facing humanity. Supporting sustainable livelihoods around national parks in East Africa. And creating a wildlife refuge against harmful gill nets in Australian waters. Everyone has a part to play – individuals, politicians, communities, businesses and NGOs. Together, we can do it!
We’re proud to lead Earth Hour, one of the world’s largest grassroots environmental movements, which this year sought to communicate a safer, fairer and more sustainable future for everyone. In March, Earth Hour supporters from 192 countries and territories came together in their millions to share in a moment of reflection for the one home we all share: planet Earth.
Taking place against the backdrop of challenging times, Earth Hour 2022 offered a message of solidarity for people and the planet. Lights were dimmed at some of the world’s most famous global landmarks as part of the symbolic switch-off. And a big thank you to everyone who helped generate over 10.1 billion impressions globally on social media channels and other platforms, and ensured Earth Hour’s related keywords and hashtags trended in 35 countries across Twitter or Google search. WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini said: “We hope that this message of solidarity for people and planet lives on and inspires individuals and organizations to take positive steps in helping to shape our future.”
From seagrass beds capturing climate-warming carbon to nature-based livelihoods helping millions of people stay out of poverty, the natural world is our ally in solving some of the most important challenges facing humanity. So, thanks in part to our campaigning, it’s great to see this get official recognition at the United Nations Environment Assembly. For the first time, governments agreed on a definition of “nature-based solutions” – a starting point for more consistent approaches on how these solutions will support action to address climate change, reverse nature loss, and more.
Our new report with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies shows how the power of nature could reduce by 26% the intensity of climate and weather-related hazards such as extreme temperatures, drought, floods, landslides and wildfires.
The illegal trade in wildlife threatens the future of many wild animal and plant species around the world. And, with an estimated value of up to US$23 billion a year, the world’s fourth most lucrative crime also harms both people and society. We need to tackle the illegal flow of money that’s at the heart of this trade so we have collaborated with a partnership, led by the UAE and UK governments, to launch a financial flows toolkit. This will help governments and financial institutions around the world identify and act against suspicious financial activity linked to the illegal wildlife trade, making it harder for organized crime to profit.
You may be surprised to learn that the world’s most trafficked mammal is not an elephant, rhino or tiger – all victims, of course, of the illegal trade. It is, in fact, the pangolin, a nocturnal ant and termite eater living across Africa and Asia. All eight pangolin species are under threat, due in part to consumer demand for their meat and unique scales.
Gill nets are indiscriminate killers, with a variety of marine wildlife around the world accidentally trapped and drowned in these so-called “walls of death”. So we’re delighted to report on a new initiative from WWF-Australia, which has effectively created a 100,000 square kilometre refuge in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef – a natural World Heritage site – where wildlife can be free from commercial gill nets. This has been achieved by buying the region’s last commercial gill net licence with a sizeable quota – and then shelving use of the licence. The northern Great Barrier Reef supports globally significant populations of dugong and marine turtle, species whose future remains uncertain due to human activities including accidental capture in fishing nets.
Our efforts to support people and wildlife in the area continue. We’re calling for the area to be permanently protected from commercial gill net fishing, and for additional net-free zones to be established along the Queensland coast to protect threatened species and create new tourism opportunities.
When hard-pressed communities and vulnerable wildlife live side by side, we need to find solutions that benefit both. So we’re working with people on the frontiers of East African national parks to switch from relying on the parks’ fragile natural resources to more reliable and better paid sustainable livelihoods.
A case in point is the Busongora people in Uganda, who until a few years ago depended on forest products from the Mountain Rwenzori National Park – a refuge for a rich variety of plant and animal life such as the critically endangered African forest elephant. In 2015, WWF-Uganda started to train the community in modern coffee farming practices that delivered improved yields, donating Shs 24 million so they could buy coffee seedlings. Since then, the community’s coffee enterprise has gone from strength to strength, helping to reduce the pressure on the nearby park. While we are making significant progress alongside these and other communities in East Africa, we remain concerned about the increasing conversion of natural vegetation for human activities such as livestock farming.